Whiteville man ensures veterans’ legacies are etched in stone - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Whiteville man ensures veterans’ legacies are etched in stone

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Layton Dowless has completed the Veterans Affairs paperwork required to receive 439 grave markers for men who fought in every major conflict from the Civil War through Vietnam. Layton Dowless has completed the Veterans Affairs paperwork required to receive 439 grave markers for men who fought in every major conflict from the Civil War through Vietnam.
Dowless has printed business cards to market his volunteer service to veterans' families. Dowless has printed business cards to market his volunteer service to veterans' families.

For Layton Dowless, every day is Memorial Day.

The 76-year-old Whiteville resident has spent much of his retirement ensuring servicemen are not forgotten.

He even has business cards: "Veteran Tombstone Provider. All Wars. No Charge to Veteran Family. Have Pick-up, Will Travel."

Dowless has completed the Veterans Affairs paperwork required to receive 439 grave markers for men who fought in every major conflict from the Civil War through Vietnam.

"We just can't do enough for our veterans. That's the way I look at it," he said.

It all started when Dowless applied for a gravestone for his great-grandfather, who served in the Civil War.

"Then the word started to get out, you know, and I started to get orders," he said. "It just took off."

While the paperwork is time consuming, once the markers arrive, the manual labor begins.

Dowless – usually working alone - hauls the stones to the cemeteries in his pick-up truck. Then digs the holes and sets the markers in place.

Headstones weigh more than 200 pounds. Footstones are about 120 pounds.

"The Lord's been good to me and given me good health," he said.

While Dowless goes to great lengths to locate veterans and honor their service, he doesn't want any praise.

For him, this work is a calling from God.

"It's been a blessing to me to have the opportunity to do something like this," he said.

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